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The Scarlet & Black

Saints Rest film screens in Grinnell

“Saints Rest,” shot in Grinnell, showed at the Strand this week. Photo by Rylee Dolezal.

“Saints Rest” (2018) is a beautifully-shot feel-good film set in Grinnell. The film was directed by award-winning Grinnell alum Noga Ashkenazi ’09. It displays platonic and romantic relationships and how they intersect with one’s personal journey. The movie also examines questions that arise at certain points in life about what home means and the conflict of home versus ambition, especially in a small-town context.

“Saints Rest” had screenings at the Harris Cinema and the Strand Theater after winning awards during its premiere in North Carolina at River Run International Film Festival.

“[River Run International Film Festival] was where we had three sold-out screenings there and one audience award,” said Ashkenazi.

Noga Ashkenazi came to Grinnell as an international student from Tel Aviv, Israel. Much of the film is a reflection of many of the dilemmas she faced throughout her life. For example, Dani, a character in the film, is from Tel Aviv and was torn between the two places she called home. Ashkenazi also implemented aspects of her experiences taking care of her father with her twin sister. As such, the film is dedicated to her father.

Ashkenazi explained how much of the film is a reflection of her own personal conflicts. “For almost a decade [I was] struggling which the question: where is home? Should I go back to Israel? Should I stay in the States?” Ashkenazi said.

The film features many shots of downtown Grinnell, as well as scenes on campus. In the making of the film, the cast and crew were hosted by the College. Ashkenazi expresses her gratitude to the College for its part in the film’s creation.

“I want to say that Grinnell College played a huge role in making this film and I couldn’t have made it without Grinnell. We stayed in the dorms in Main the entire summer. We basically took over — our home base was Main lounge where we had all our costumes. It was just incredible living in the dorms all summer and making a movie in Grinnell about Grinnell … So really, I say, it’s a Grinnell love song, this movie …” Ashkenazi said.

Saints Rest Coffee in downtown Grinnell, where much of the film takes place, also cooperated greatly with Ashkenazi and the cast to make this film happen. “Here in Saints Rest, Sam Cox, the owner, let us close down the coffee shop for a whole week,” Ashkenazi said.

In addition, most of the extras were people in the Grinnell community. “That was the most amazing part,” Ashkenazi said, “because the Grinnell community came together to help us out. People just showed up and volunteered and were extras and they gave us entire days. I hope they enjoyed [the film].”

Saints Rest was a musical in the sense that there were multiple musical numbers, but the music was integrated into the film and there were no sporadic dance numbers in accompaniment.

“This is not a traditional musical in the sense that people are not dancing randomly. It’s very naturalistic. We wanted the songs to feel like part of the story and that you would barely notice that it was a musical because you’re just watching a film that has songs in it” Ashkenazi said.

The musical numbers were so well integrated because music was a large part of the characters’ lives. Allie, the younger sister in the film, goes off to Broadway, leaving her sister Joni in the process. She comes back to visit one summer and that is where the film starts.

To the satisfaction of many audiences who have seen the film so far, the soundtrack will be released online soon. The talented voices of Hani Furstenberg, who plays Joni, Allie Trimm, who plays Allie, and Dana Ivgy, who plays Danny, stole the show. Their talent is no surprise though, given their experiences on Broadway before this film.

Ashkenazi worked for about a year on the soundtrack with two Israeli composers. The music was all sung and played live during filming.

This film discussed many important questions about home, the monotony of small-town life, and how relationships affect our personal lives. The relationships within the film and the beautiful music leave viewers feeling peaceful. As a Grinnellian or anyone who enjoys meaningful musicals, the film is a great experience.

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